HomeReviewsThe Man Who Feels No Pain (India, 2018) [LIFF 2019]
The Man Who Feels No Pain (India, 2018) [LIFF 2019]
15 June, 2019
While the stereotype of Indian films always involves singing and dancing, The Man Who Feels No Pain offers something totally different. It tells the story of Surya (Abhimanyu Dasani), a man who has the rare condition of Congenital Insensitivity to Pain, which literally makes him feel no pain. But when people might think that this can be some sort of superpower, it actually makes Surya more vulnerable, as he cannot understand the concept of pain as the measurement of his wellbeing.
Raised by his overprotective
father who treats his condition like a curse, Surya often seeks solace from his
Manjrekar) who secretly teaches Surya to survive in the
world by (1) pretending that he feels pain and say ‘ouch’ every time someone
hits him, (2) to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and (3) to learn martial
arts from films on VHS. When Surya is bullied at school, it his classmate Supri
who helps him to escape. In Supri (played as an adult by Radhika Madan), Surya sees a damsel in distress, as she and her mother have
always been abused by her father. When Surya decides that he will fight against
Supri’s father and nearly kills him, residents in his apartment complex start
to see him as a threat and force his family to move to a new home. Surya’s
father keeps him inside to protect him from the outside world, and vice versa,
to keep Surya from accidentally harming others.
A few years go by and it is time
for Surya to go out and see the world. But, being raised by two single men,
Surya acts and thinks like a boy, often lost in his daydreams. When Surya and
his grandfather go to see his old apartment complex, a series of event
accidentally reunite Surya with Supri, now married to an abusive husband. Even
though she has learned how to fight from Mani (Gulshan Devaiah) the one-legged Karate master who was Surya and Supri’s childhood
hero, she is still a damsel in distress. Her abusive father sees her husband as
his son and even advises him to slap Supri to make her obedient.
Rich in imagination, pop culture references, as well as experimental shots, director Vasan Bala successfully combines action, comedy, drama, and fantasy in The Man Who Feels No Pain, which is his second feature following the crime thriller Peddlers (2012). Within the unconventional story structure, Bala dares to let his creativity run wild. For example, Bala utilizes a montage paired with a song, which describes the events of the backstory of Mani and his twin brother, Jimmy. He also uses a very effective extreme zoom out for Surya and Supri’s first night together, beautifully conveying that the experience is out of this world for the innocent Surya. In Surya’s daydreams, Bala uses different techniques, from slow motion to animation. He also shoots the final action sequence with rain pouring down which creates a dramatic effect.
But what really makes The Man Who Feels No Pain refreshing in
comparison to more typical Indian films is the fight sequences. Even with a
combination of action and comedy reminiscent of Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle (2004) and Hollywood-style
cinematography, this film still feels authentically Indian. No wonder that it won
the prestigious Midnight Madness audience award at the Toronto International
Film Festival in 2018, alongside David Gordon Green’s Halloween and Sam Levinson’s Assassination
The Bagri Foundation London Film Festival 2019 celebrates a decade of bringing the best new South Asian films to the UK, with 5 cities, 25 venues and 25 specially curated films. It starts on June 20 in London and continues until July 8 at cinemas across the UK. Watch the festival trailer here.
Azalia Muchransyah is pursuing a Ph.D. in Media Study at University at Buffalo (SUNY). She is a recipient of 2017 DIKTI-Funded Fulbright Ph.D. Scholarship. Her area of interest is advocacy media, specifically AIDS Media in Indonesia. Prior to her Fulbright award, she was the Deputy Head of Film Program at Bina Nusantara University International, Jakarta, Indonesia. Her short films have been officially selected and screened in international festivals and academic conferences. They include Halal (2017), HIV/AIDS: Not A Death Sentence (2018), Big Durian Big Apple (2018), Blue Film (2018), and Tamu (2018).